Land bank targets its first two

LISBON – Columbiana County’s new land bank has decided to take on its first two properties.

The land bank board voted this week to begin the process for trying to acquire abandoned residential properties in East Liverpool and Wellsville.

County Development Director Tad Herold, who is in charge of administering the land bank program, said they still have a lot of details to work out before they would be in a position to actually acquire the properties, but the board authorized him to begin the process.

The East Liverpool property involves a fire-damaged abandoned home that has been foreclosed against and offered for sheriff sale twice but there were no takers. A neighbor is interested in acquiring the property and agreed to demolish the dilapidated house himself in exchange for the land bank acquiring the property and transferring the parcel to him.

The situation is similar in regard to the Wellsville property, which is an abandoned home located next door to a commercial property whose owner wants the lot to expand the parking lot. The neighbor would also be willing pay for the demolition work in exchange for the land bank acquiring and transferring the property.

After a foreclosed property is offered for sheriff’s sale twice and there were no bidders, the property then goes to a county auditor’s sale, where the starting bid is $5 and the delinquent real estate taxes are waived.

Prior to the auditor’s sale, the land bank could acquire the East Liverpool and Wellsville properties tax-free for $45 each and then transfer them to neighboring landowners in exchange for demolishing the homes.

Herold said this is what they are looking to do but the board has to first adopt a pricing schedule for land bank transactions, as well as a memorandum of understanding for communities to sign before property in their city, village or township could be acquired.

He declined to identify the two properties at this time because of concern the deals may fall through and then may end up going to the next auditor’s sale. If that were to occur, premature disclosure of the exact locations could put them at a disadvantage against other bidders.

The land bank has applied for a $500,000 housing demolition grant through the federal Neighborhood Initiative Program, but Herold said the abovementioned projects can proceed without any of this funding since the neighboring property owners are interested in doing the demolition work themselves.

St. Clair Township Trustee Jim Hall and East Palestine Village Manager Peter Monteleone, who serve on the land bank board, were absent from the meeting. The other members are county commissioners Jim Hoppel and Mike Halleck, county Treasurer Linda Bolon, Salem Mayor John Berlin and East Liverpool Councilwoman Sherrie Curtis.